At just 17 years old, NLE Choppa is already one of the world’s biggest artists. The popularity of his “Shotta Flow” series has surpassed several hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, and his brief discography has amassed over a billion streams worldwide. Only a year and a half into his career, NLE Choppa has racked up several gold and platinum plaques, the latest coming from the success of his Roddy Ricch-assisted “Walk Em Down” single. Believe it or not though, NLE is only getting better.
This past week NLE dropped his highly anticipated debut “Top Shotta”, the same week that he was announced as one of 2020’s XXL Freshman. Like many of the Freshman joining him this year, NLE has already tasted success, but he’s destined for more. With Top Shotta the world gets exactly what they need from NLE. He executed with the intensity and passion that catapulted him to the top, but also delivered with vulnerability and strength, to make sure he stays there for a long time.
NLE Choppa took the time to speak with Sidedoor about Top Shotta as well as the positivity he’s bringing to the world. Top Shotta is available to stream everywhere now, but for a deeper insight on the man behind the work, check out the interview below.
In a mini documentary released the week of the album drop, NLE’s family and friends told us that he’s always been the centre of attention, bringing his crew with him. The same way he would put on for his basketball team as a star point guard, he was doing now as the head of No Love Entertainment, the label.
“I started my own brand because it was always implemented in my head since young that we are in this alone. My momma taught me the importance of ownership when I was young, and I just never wanted to be apart of somebody else’s stuff like that. I wanted to own my own, and have people be a part of that, so I came up with No Love Ent. NLE. I branded myself. A lot of stuff made the brand what it was, bust mostly just the shit that I was feeling coming up.”
A lot of us learned about NLE after tracks like “Shotta Flow” and “Camelot” blew up, leading us to believe that hype music was NLE’s only lane, but that ignorance was short lived. “Walk Em Down” was one of the first singles to show off NLE’s range. Within the first listen of “Walk Em Down”, we knew what that song was going to do. Some of us were surprised by the change of direction, but NLE grew up on diversity. This was what he expected.
“I listened to a lot of Jamaican vibes growing up. A lot of Bob Marley, Shabba Ranks, but also, Lil Wayne and Tupac. My Mom and my Pops liked Tupac a lot. I always liked making the “vibe music” more ‘cause I feel like you can get more creative on it. It shows my creativity and versatility. The hype songs was what everyone wanted from me and expected from me though, so I just started with that. I don’t be trippin’ though, ‘cause I really fuck with both. It just depends on how I’m feeling. I mostly be feeling the vibe stuff though, even though the hard shit just be easier to make.
The vibe shit is harder to do cause I try to implement a certain amount of flows with it – but the hard shit be hard to make sometimes too, because sometimes I don’t feel like getting in that pocket to make a lot of killing shit. I don’t wanna be doing that all day [laughs].”
With his newfound success, it makes sense that NLE Choppa is trying to get away from the streets. Growing up in rough parts of Memphis, Tennessee, the impact of his city was immediately felt in his early music. With that being said though, Memphis is only part of his culture. NLE has always loved and respected his family’s Jamaican heritage.
“I more so say the Caribbean-side affects the “vibey stuff”. Memphis is for sure like the grimey. In my hype music, the Memphis comes out of me – but when I try to vibe, I feel the Caribbean culture come out. My Mom is from Jamaica and my Grandma is from Jamaica too. I just be trying to go back to that like a Rasta vibe on the vibe tracks.”
NLE has never been afraid of the moment, and never afraid to be who he was. A lot of creatives tend to make what they love a hobby, often keeping their talents or passions a secret until they’re ready to share. For some this could be months, for others this could be years. For NLE, it was hours. As soon as he started creating music, he was sharing it with the people around him, looking for ways to get better. Even his mom was an early supporter… sort of.
“I always wanted people to hear it [my music]. I always want feedback and opinions so I can hear them out and get better at what I do. I would always make everyone listen. I would let my mom hear it too. My Mom would be like ‘it’s too much cussing, but I like it” [laughs]. Everybody heard my first song; they heard my second song too – I was just keeping everybody updated. I was always on the aux.”
One of NLE’s biggest songs to date is “Shotta Flow”. In the same UPROXX documentary mentioned earlier, NLE talked about writing the lyrics while sitting in classrooms, knowing that it was going to be something special. He mentioned that he was praying for success.
“[With “Shotta Flow”] I just always knew. I just knew what it was gonna do. It was something about that song, out of all the ones I was making, that made me feel like it was on another level. I just knew. I thought it was [only] gonna do like a million in a month though. But my man told me it was gonna do a hundred million, I said ‘man, no way’. But it did that, plus more. So that shit crazy.”
Once you start looking into NLE’s life and career a little more deeply, you find out that Choppa was a golden child, that got caught up in the streets. Ever since he’s earned his platform, however, he’s been open about his mental health, struggling, but also supporting the people the people around him. NLE advocates for mindfulness, meditation, positivity, and optimism. His music helped change his life for the better, now he’s hoping that it can do the same for his fans.
“The goal has always been to get this blessing and help others. It’s what I live by. I try not to get too caught up in the money, the jewellery and all that stuff – I want to get caught up in the purpose. What more can I do today to spread a more positive word? outside of the negative shit that I’ve rapped about. Even, what can I tweet about for my fans? Just little positive shit, ‘cause I always want to help. It makes me feel like they [the fans] are with me through the process. They’re my family too.”
Family is a big part of what NLE does. Since the beginning, this has always been a family business, with his Mom being his manager. But he didn’t always expect it to be that way.
“I used to have this mindset of ‘I want to do everything by myself’, and I think it was good I had that mindset, ‘cause it got me to where I was supposed to be. But once I got to that point – once the first label hit me – the first call that I made was to my Momma, like ‘okay I need you to be my manager’. She was like ‘huh? what?’, she was at work, I was like ‘mom this shit finna take off, it’s over with’, I was just telling her – but she hung up in my face, ‘cause she thought I was lying.
She thought I was talking shit, ‘cause I always call her phone playing, but this time I had to show her all the evidence and everything. Once we got on a call with the label, she knew I wasn’t playing. We flew out to LA a couple days later.”
Top Shotta, NLE’s debut album is perfectly curated, with the earliest seeds being planted with his first songs. Around the time he created “Shotta Flow”, NLE had already began experimenting with different sounds. He shared with us that back when he went under the alias of YNR Choppa, he made “Hummin In The Rain”, and experimented with other vibey songs. One of which was “Molly”, a standout on Top Shotta. Other album standouts like “Gamble With My Heart” and “Watch Out For The Narcs” were recorded far more recently, during quarantine. Experimentation and execution have been with NLE from the beginning, and he’s kept it up until now. Still, he’s working on growing his sound. What’s most exciting though, is we have no idea how far it can go.
“I tried to make a reggae song a few days ago, I stopped in the middle of it, but I feel like it was hard. I need to finish it.”
Before we let NLE go, we asked him what the XXL look meant to him, and whether or not he felt that it would really help push his career.
“I grew up watching XXL freestyles and cyphers. I watched bad freestyles, I watched good ones, and I was always like ‘when I get on there, I don’t want to have a bad freestyle’. I knew I was gonna be on there one day. And I feel like I had a great freestyle and great cypher. I grew up listening, so I knew what not to do and what to do, and I feel like I did good.
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To be honest though, I don’t really get caught up on any one thing. I’m hoping that all of it together, comes through the way its supposed to, and XXL can play a role in that.”
NLE has been working extremely hard to make his dreams a reality. From working on his sound with every release, to dropping one of the hardest albums of the year, to finding an appreciation for the press and media, and the impact it can have on his relationship fans and listeners. We thanked him and his team for showing love to Sidedoor and asked him what was next.
“I need a vacation. I’m going back to Jamaica.” – NLE Choppa.